Kubala with FC Barcelona in 1953
|Full name||László Kubala Stecz|
|Date of birth||10 June 1927|
|Place of birth||Budapest, Hungary|
|Date of death||17 May 2002(aged 74)|
|Place of death||Barcelona, Spain|
|Height||1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
László Kubala Stecz (10 June 1927 – 17 May 2002), also referred to as Ladislav Kubala (in Slovak) or Ladislao Kubala (in Spanish), was a professional footballer, regarded as one of the best players in history; he is considered a symbol of Barcelona. He played as a forward for, among other clubs, Ferencváros, Slovan Bratislava, Barcelona, and Espanyol. A Hungarian national by birth, he also held Czechoslovak and Spanish citizenship, and played for the national teams of all three countries.
Kubala was noted for his quick and skilful dribbling, composed and powerful finishing, and accuracy from free kicks. During the 1950s, he was a leading member of the successful Barcelona team, scoring 280 goals in 345 appearances. During the club's 1999 centenary celebrations, a fan's poll declared Kubala the best player ever to play for the Spanish club. After retiring as a player, he had two spells as coach of Barcelona and also coached both Spain's senior national team and Olympic team.
Early life and career
Childhood and youth
Kubala was born in Budapest, as were his parents, who came from mixed backgrounds. His mother, Anna Stecz, a factory worker, had Polish, Slovak and Hungarian roots, while his father, Pál Kubala Kurjas, a bricklayer, belonged to the Slovak minority of Hungary. Kubala described himself as a "cosmopolitan". He began his career as a junior player with Ganz TE, a factory team that played in the Hungarian third division. At the age of 11 he was playing in teams with other players who were three to five years older. At the age of 18 he signed for Ferencvárosi TC where he was a teammate of Sándor Kocsis. In 1946 he moved to Czechoslovakia, allegedly to avoid military service, and joined ŠK Slovan Bratislava. In 1947 Kubala married Anna Viola Daučík, the daughter of the Czechoslovakian national coach, Ferdinand Daučík. In 1948 he returned to Hungary, again to allegedly avoid military service, and joined Vasas SC.
In January 1949, as Hungary became a socialist state, Kubala fled the country in the back of a truck. Initially he arrived in the United States zone of Allied-occupied Austria and then moved on to Italy, where he played briefly for Pro Patria. In May 1949 he also agreed to play for Torino in a testimonial against S.L. Benfica but pulled out after his son became ill. On the way back from Lisbon the plane carrying the Torino team crashed into the Superga hills, killing all 31 people on board.
Meanwhile, the Hungarian Football Federation accused him of breach of contract, leaving the country without permission and failure to do military service. FIFA backed them and imposed a one-year international ban. In January 1950 Kubala, with Ferdinand Daučík as coach, formed his own team, Hungaria, which was made up of fellow refugees fleeing Eastern Europe. In the summer of 1950 the team arrived in Spain to play a series of friendlies against a Madrid XI, a Spain XI and RCD Espanyol.
During these games, Kubala was spotted by both Real Madrid and Josep Samitier, then chief scout at FC Barcelona. Kubala was offered a contract by Real but was persuaded by Samitier to sign for FC Barcelona. It has been suggested[by whom?] that Samitier used his connections within the government of Franco to help arrange the transfer. In the midst of the Cold War, Kubala's escape to the West was used as propaganda by Franco's government and was made into a successful film The Stars Search for Peace which saw Kubala and Samitier playing themselves.
Kubala signed for FC Barcelona on 15 June 1950 and as part of the deal Ferdinand Daučík also became the FC Barcelona coach. However the ban imposed on Kubala was still in place and he did not make his La Liga debut until 1951. However, he was permitted to play friendlies and in two consecutive games against Frankfurter S.V., which FC Barcelona won 4–1 and 10–4, he scored six goals and set-up another five. He also played in the Copa del Generalísimo and helped the club win the trophy in 1951.
In his first La Liga season, 1951–52, Kubala scored 26 goals in 19 games. This included 7 goals in a 9–0 win over Sporting de Gijón, 5 against Celta de Vigo and hat-tricks against Sevilla and Racing de Santander. His 7 goals against Sporting de Gijón remain the record for most goals scored in a single match in La Liga. He also scored in the Copa final as FC Barcelona beat Valencia CF 4–2. This season proved to be one of the clubs most successful. Coach Daucik and Kubala, together with players like Emilio Aldecoa, Velasco, Joan Segarra and Ramallets, inspired the team to win five trophies including La Liga, the Copa del Generalisimo, the Latin Cup and the Copa Eva Duarte. Kubala missed much of the 1952–53 season after contracting tuberculosis, which threatened to end his playing career. However, he made a miraculous recovery and returned to help FC Barcelona retain both La Liga and the Copa del Generalísimo. He also scored again in the Copa final win, a 2–1 win over Athletic Bilbao. During his time with Barcelona he scored a total of 14 hat-tricks.
In 1958 Kubala persuaded two fellow Hungarian refugees, Sándor Kocsis and Zoltán Czibor to join him at FC Barcelona and together with a young Luis Suárez and Evaristo, they formed the nucleus of the team that won a La Liga/ Copa del Generalísimo double in 1959 and a La Liga /Fairs Cup double in 1960. However Kubala found himself out of favour with coach Helenio Herrera and lost his place in the team. As a result, he missed the 1960 European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid which FC Barcelona lost 6–2 on aggregate. The result saw Herrera lose his job and Kubala restored to the team. In the 1961 European Cup, FC Barcelona became the first club to beat Real Madrid in the competition. Inspired by Kubala they won 4–3 on aggregate and subsequently reached the final where they lost to Benfica 3–2. Kubala briefly retired as a player in 1961 and initially became a youth coach at FC Barcelona before becoming coach of the senior team for the 1962–63 season. However, after losing a Fairs Cup game to Red Star Belgrade he was dismissed.
Kubala played for three international teams – Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Spain. While playing with ŠK Slovan Bratislava, he played 6 times and scored 4 goals for Czechoslovakia between 1946 and 1947. After returning to Budapest in 1948, he played 3 games for Hungary but failed to score. After adopting Spanish nationality he played 19 times and scored 11 goals for Spain between 1953 and 1961. The highlight of his international career was a hat-trick for Spain against Turkey in 3–0 win in November 1957. Despite playing for three countries, Kubala never played in the finals of a major international tournament. He was included in the Spain squad for the 1962 World Cup but, along with Alfredo Di Stéfano, he did not play due to injury.
As well as playing for three international teams, Kubala also played for both a Europe XI and the Catalan XI. On 21 October 1953, England played a Europe XI at Wembley Stadium to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Football Association and Kubala scored twice in the 4–4 draw. He also played 4 games and scored 4 times for the Catalan XI. On 26 January 1955 in a game against Bologna at Les Corts, he was joined by guest player Alfredo Di Stéfano. The Catalan XI won 6–2 with two goals from Kubala and one from Di Stéfano. His last game for the Catalan XI was his own testimonial on 4 March 1993 at the Montjuïc Stadium against an International XI. He played the opening ten minutes of the game at age 65.
After leaving FC Barcelona, Kubala accepted a contract as a player/coach with RCD Espanyol and teamed up with Alfredo Di Stéfano. During his time at RCD Espanyol he gave a La Liga debut to his son, Branko. In 1966 he joined FC Zürich, again as player/coach, and made his last appearance in a European Cup game against the competitions eventual winners, Celtic. In 1967 Kubala went to Canada, where at Toronto Falcons he enjoyed something of family reunion with his father-in-law, Ferdinand Daučík, his brother-in-law, Yanko Daucik and his son Branko. He also appeared in 19 matches for Toronto, scoring 5 times.
By the end of 1968 he had returned to La Liga, and after a brief spell at Córdoba CF, he became coach of Spain. Kubala ended the team's 11-year absence from the World Cup in when he guided the team to the 1978 World Cup, but he could not steer them through the first-round group stage. He also managed them at Euro 80, where they again went out in the first round.
In 1980, he returned to FC Barcelona as a manager for a second short spell before moving to Saudi Arabia where he managed Al-Hilal. He subsequently managed three other La Liga clubs, including CD Málaga whom he guided to the Segunda División title in 1988. His last coaching position was with Paraguay in 1995.
- La Liga: 4
- Copa del Generalísimo: 5
- Inter-Cities Fairs Cup : 2
- Latin Cup: 1
- Copa Eva Duarte: 2
- 1952, 1953
- Gaarskjær, Jesper (2010). Barça: Historien om FC Barcelona. København: Gyldendal. p. 69. ISBN 978-87-02-08764-2.
- "Ladislav Kubala". Rsssf.com. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
- Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football (2003), Phil Ball
- Barça: A People’s Passion (1998), Jimmy Burns
- "Ladislao Kubala Stecz - Goals in International Matches". Rsssf.com. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
- "NASL". Nasljerseys.com. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
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